Clerkship Quandry

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What should I do?

Highest State Court - a bird in hand . . .
21
75%
Federal District Court - don't sell yourself short
7
25%
 
Total votes: 28

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ggocat
Posts: 1662
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Re: Clerkship Quandry

Postby ggocat » Sat Dec 04, 2010 11:34 am

XxSpyKEx wrote:In comparison to other highest "state" courts, yes (e.g. DC COA is way more prestigious than the highest state court in Nebraska). I'd also imagine it would be much easier to move from NY/DC COA --> Art III DC in Idaho than it would be to move from the Nebraska Supreme Court --> Art III DC in Idaho.

I don't think it would be much easier. But if it is more prestigious or "easier" to get a job, it's probably because of this:
XxSpyKEx wrote:Given the schools and quality of students the court attracts relative to a court such as, e.g., Nebraska Supreme Court suggests DC COA is more prestigious than the Nebraska Supreme Court.

... not because the name of the court actually helps you get the job.

I think the "prestige" discussion doesn't work very well when comparing courts like these ones. It's very different from the "prestige" of law schools. For example, someone with good LSAT/UGPA may get into Chicago and lower ranked in-state schools. Chicago is better because employers aren't going to know / aren't going to care what your LSAT was. So the reputation of the school helps a student get a (better) job compared lower ranked in-state schools.

The same is not true with two similar level clerkships in different states. Unlike how employers don't care very much about the credentials required for entry into a prestigious law school, the employers are going to care about what school you went to, what your grades were, and whether you were on law review. So the name of the court doesn't really matter. It's the underlying credentials to get that position straight out of law school. I don't think district judge in Idaho is going to intrinsically think DCCOA is better than SCONE. But maybe he/she will see the resumes from both applicants and go with the DCCOA person because creds were better in the first place. (But to be honest, I think we should choose a state other than Idaho--like California or Texas--somewhere outside the midwest to make this discussion worthwhile... I would suspect there would actually be some geographic bias favoring the SCONE applicant).

Maybe I'm just defining prestige differently--i.e., it actually "gets" you something, like an interview in a neutral location you wouldn't have gotten if you were at another similar court in a different state. Using this definition, I wouldn't say DCCOA is more prestigious.

vamedic03 wrote:Wrong court. They're referring to the District of Columbia Court of Appeals, not the U.S. Court of Appeals for the DC circuit.

No.

2LLLL
Posts: 249
Joined: Wed Aug 25, 2010 12:38 pm

Re: Clerkship Quandry

Postby 2LLLL » Sat Dec 04, 2010 11:47 am

"The court also has jurisdiction to review decisions of administrative agencies, boards, and commissions of the District government, as well as to answer questions of law certified by the Supreme Court of the United States, a United States court of appeals, or the highest appellate court of any state."



You realize that every state's highest appellate court has this exact same jurisdiction right? Answering questions of law isn't like some super special honor- its just when a federal or a different state's court is applying your state's law and they come to a matter of first impression.

Anonymous User
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Re: Clerkship Quandry

Postby Anonymous User » Sat Dec 04, 2010 7:32 pm

As someone who is currently clerking at a state supreme court, and having actively participated in my judge's hiring process this year (we received 150+ applications, which is way lower than what federal courts receive, in part due to "prestige" and also because we require paper applications), I have the following thoughts:

1. consider where you want to practice upon graduation and whether that practice relates mostly to federal (e.g., antitrust, patent, copyright) or state law issues. obviously you'd get more out of a federal clerkship if you wanted to practice in a federal-law-dominated field, but most states model their rules of civil procedure and evidence after the federal ones anyway. on the flip side, if you plan on practicing in that state afterwards, clerking for the state supreme court is a great way to get to know the local law firms and network your way to a job (especially since you said you didn't have one lined up).

2. as other people have mentioned, no clerkship is a pure given. the resumes and credentials of the candidates we interviewed this year were amazing. Even though many of them could have gotten federal clerkships (based on their paper application), they all struck out. My guess is that there's simply less federal clerkship spots for 3Ls now than there was in past years.

3. What it really comes down to for most judges is who your recommenders are, and how strongly they are willing to go to bat for you. having a professor that knows a judge, and who is willing to write a letter of recommendation for you and call that judge on your behalf, is priceless. If you don't have a good relationship with 3 of your professors, take the time to cultivate that relationship. you don't want your recommenders to say nothing other than "i've reviewed this person's transcript and exam in my class, they got an A, i think they'd do well." Generic, unenthusiastic letters are worthless (see above).

4. finally, don't let the state vs. federal "prestige" comparison be the deciding factor. honestly, my job is so much more interesting, and the work i do is so much more meaningful than my federal district court counterparts (at least based upon what i gather from talking to my friends who are down at the federal courthouse this year). in part, it's because as a state supreme court, you mostly deal with legal issues, and you don't have to get caught up (or weighted down) in the ridiculous amount of motion practice that occurs in trial level courts. granted, if you are going to be a litigator, a good portion of what you do will be motion practice, but it's not exactly the most cutting edge legal work. and discovery disputes suck.

Anonymous User
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Re: Clerkship Quandry

Postby Anonymous User » Sun Dec 05, 2010 11:45 am

What it really comes down to for most judges is who your recommenders are, and how strongly they are willing to go to bat for you. having a professor that knows a judge, and who is willing to write a letter of recommendation for you and call that judge on your behalf, is priceless. If you don't have a good relationship with 3 of your professors, take the time to cultivate that relationship. you don't want your recommenders to say nothing other than "i've reviewed this person's transcript and exam in my class, they got an A, i think they'd do well." Generic, unenthusiastic letters are worthless (see above).


Do recommendations have to be from professors? Right now I can muster one recommendation from a professor, one from an attorney at my 1L summer job, and one from an attorney at my fall internship. Will these recommendations from practicing attorneys be discounted compared a recommendation from a professor? Personally that doesn't make sense- the two attorneys who supervised me "in the field" got a much better look at my work product than say, my Torts professor.

Anonymous User
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Re: Clerkship Quandry

Postby Anonymous User » Sun Dec 05, 2010 8:14 pm

G. T. L. Rev. wrote:It is true that the attorney can probably comment more on how you work, but judges (or at least the ones I know of, including my judge) only care about that a little. Most attorney recs basically say the same thing: "Sally So-and-So did excellent work, was timely and detail oriented, etc., etc." The judges assume you can do good work based on your grades, etc.; the recs help them find the true standouts, and to do that, one needs to make student-to-student comparisons.


Correct. The problem with letters from practicing attorneys is that they don't help a judge make a comparison between two people. What's useful about professors is that each year, professors will be writing letters of recommendation for multiple clerkship applicants, and can make a meaningful comparison between those students (e.g., "I am writing 5 recommendations for clerkship applications this year, and I think this candidate is the strongest of the 5.") Or, the professor can make a meaningful comparison between the candidate and previous years' applicants (e.g., "This person is in the top 1% of students I have ever taught" or "Hey, remember back in 1999 when I recommended Joe Schmoe to you as a clerk and you hired him? This kid's even better than Joe").

Also, how well a judge knows the recommender will make a huge difference. If your practicing attorney references are just from people in the community, that's fine, but it won't make your application stand out. If, however, your recommending practicing attorney is someone who had previously clerked for that judge, that will probably be a helpful letter (although in those situations, I think it's more effective to have the attorney call the judge and advocate on your behalf).
Last edited by Anonymous User on Sun Dec 05, 2010 10:31 pm, edited 1 time in total.




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